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One of the reasons "The Lottery," by Shirley Jackson, is so disturbing is that, from the very beginning, everything seems so normal. The first paragraph of the story sets the tone for what Jackson wants us to assume is a festive town holiday.
The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny, with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day; the flowers were blossoming profusely and the grass was richly green. The people of the village began to gather in the square, between the post office and the bank, around ten o'clock; in some towns there were so many people that the lottery took two days and had to be started on June 2th. but in this village, where there were only about three hundred people, the whole lottery took less than two hours, so it could begin at ten o'clock in the morning and still be through in time to allow the villagers to get home for noon dinner.
Notice the use of so many details which set the scene for this story. We know the exact day, feel the warmth of the sun, and see the vivid colors of grass and flowers. Everyone is gathering (we can almost picture them stopping to visit near the post office and bank on the town square), and we know that, in two hours, everyone will finish with these festivities before going back home for lunch.
Though we do not know exactly what the lottery is, given this air of anticipation and the beauty of this spring-like day we know it must be something wonderful.
The mood of the town is festive and carefree. The children are out of school for the summer, the men are talking about "planting and rain, tractors and taxes," and the women are enjoying a bit of gossip. It is a good day for all three hundred residents of the town--so far.
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